Is there a “best” sleeping position, for instance on your back or on your side? Various studies over the years have drawn together a list of pros and cons for each sleeping position, along with some “expert” recommendations on which probably is best for you.
Lying on your back with arms beside you: Many doctors recommend this position for spine health and for those who suffer from heartburn and acid reflux. Since your head is propped up a bit by a pillow, foods and acids cannot “reflux” upward from the stomach. The big drawback to this position is that, with your head propped up, you’re restricting your air passage, leading to guess what? Snoring. So if you snore, or worse have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), you should avoid this position. One variation of this position has been labeled as completely bad for you, and that’s when you fold your hands behind your head. This restricts all kinds of blood flow and can lead to various health problems.
Sleeping on your side: This is a position used by 66 percent of Americans, according to studies, and sleep doctors recommend this position for anyone who snores or suffers from OSA. In fact, sleeping on your side in a semi-fetal (but not full fetal) position is generally regarded as the best position for the best, most rejuvenating sleep. In fact, the only observable drawback to sleeping on your side is that you might develop a “dead arm” from lying on top of it. Other than that possible development, this is a great position to use while sleeping.
Sleeping on your stomach: It’s been reported that 16 percent of Americans sleep on their tummies, which is good for digestion and provides an overall good position for snorers and for those with sleep apnea. However, sleep professionals pan it for the effects it has on your spine and neck. To avoid these potential musculo-skeletal problems, experts suggest not using a pillow under your head.
The fetal position: The full fetal position while sleeping is generally cautioned against in favor of lying on your side in a partial fetal position. The full version, however, is excellent for pregnant women and also is good for snorers (as are other positions).
The log and the yearner: These are variations of side-lying. The log refers to the body’s straightened position without any fetal imitations. The yearner gets that nomenclature because he or she sleeps with both arms stretched outward.
Regardless of your current preferred sleeping position, the litmus test is whether your sleep refreshes you for the next day, and as a corollary, whether it causes snoring or triggers sleep apnea breathing problems.
If you’re not getting the rejuvenation you need from your sleep, you can try sleeping on your side (or a variation) and see if that helps. If it doesn’t, then you probably need to get a sleep evaluation from a professional.